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Spring Training Notebook: Cardinals 2021 Draftee Hits 100 Mph, Plus Other Notes



JUPITER, Fla. — It was a full quad on Wednesday as the Marlins and Cardinals four minor league squads faced off. In the shadow of Roger Dean Stadium Matthew Liberatore started for the Cardinals Triple-A squad, sitting 93-94 mph and touching 95 while mixing in his slider, curveball and changeup.

Cardinals legend Yadier Molina was a late arrival to camp, as was teammate Giovanny Gallegos. The righthanded reliever threw a simulated game to Molina and faced Lars Nootbaar as well as a few other batters. He sat 92-93 mph and mixed in some sliders. Molina saw at-bats in the Triple-A and Double-A games and made loud contact on a couple of occasions.

Righthanded flamethrower Edwin Nunez started the High-A game and sat 96-97 mph while touching 98 mph. He mixed in a slider in the mid 80s and went right after batters. He allowed some hard contact to Kahlil Watson but was effective overall, even if he was a bit erratic.

The standout of the day for the Cardinals was 2021 fifth-rounder Gordon Graceffo, as he created immediate buzz upon coming into the Triple-A game. Scouts and inactive players crowded the Triple-A field after word spread that Graceffo hit 100 mph on the Trackman in his first inning of work. He sat 96-97 mph early, mixing in a changeup in the low 80s and a tight gyro slider in the mid 80s. He dropped down to 92-93 mph from the stretch but his up-tempo delivery made him a difficult at-bat for the Miami hitters. As one evaluator noted “he pitches angry, I wouldn’t want to stand in against that guy.”

The early part of the morning was dedicated to defensive drills at Cardinals camp and two young infielders stood out for their defensive prowess. Mack Chambers, an 11th-rounder out of New Mexico, was impressive with his actions and range during drills, making plays on his back hand look rudimentary. The other was the Cardinals top 2020 international signee Adari Grant. He was smooth in his actions, quick to the ball and moved well laterally. Grant has a compact but strong build with broad shoulders that point to future physical projection.

KEEP AN EYE ON: Won-Bin Cho. The Korean international signee on Tuesday started in right field for the Cardinals Low-A squad and had a hard-struck double to the wall. He was hit in the face by a pitch later in the game and was inactive on Wednesday but was on the bench and in uniform. He has a strong and projectable frame with good bat speed and advanced plate discipline … Lefthander Nathanael Heredia pitched on Tuesday for the Cardinals Low-A squad and sat 94-95 with heavy arm-side run and a deceptive release. He mixed in a slider and a changeup and all of his pitches had an unusual tilt … Austin Love pitched in the Double-A game and dominated with a fastball at 92-94 mph that looked faster out of the hand. Its ability to jump on hitters as it approached the plate was a key part of his success.

Vinnie Pasquantino (Tracy Proffitt/Four Seam Images)

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